Monday, May 20, 2013

What's the right way to get fit?

So, this week, I'm getting questions about exercise structure, and food intake to achieve specific goals. So let's take a quick peek at what you can do to change up an exercise program if you want to build muscle. We would be looking to lift heavier weight, with less repetition, at a higher intensity. So, taking a 1 RM (repetition Maximum, or the amount you can lift 1 rep with good form, but only 1) estimate, I can extrapolate 75%(depending on your tolerance), and we would design a program to develop a balanced physique utilizing a smaller set size (6-8, 8-10, 10-12), to achieve your goals. But listen, there are literally hundreds of ways to change up a program. You can change the exercises. You can progress the exercises to a harder form of the same basic exercise. You can split your week into body areas or zones to lift daily. You can add intervals (HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, one of my favorites for weight loss!)
Along with this, proper nutrition is crucial. There are many out there right now who have the "correct" answer. The Paleo people insist meat and vegetables, but no grain, legumes and dairy is the right answer. The Vegan people insist that a diet high in vegetables fruits, grains, and legumes is right, but eschew all animal products. So what do you eat? You pick a balanced diet that is high in natural food. You eat real food, not too much, and not too little. Stay away from too much of any one thing. Variety is the spice of life, and you body will thank you for it. If you are inadvertantly losing weight, add a serving or two more of lean protein and fruit or veggie (like another mini meal). If you are gaining weight, take a look at how much you are eating, and what foods you might be overindulging in--writing it down in a diary can be helpful to keep you honest. Use your common sense, and don't fall into the trap of the latest FAD diet.
To your lifelong health,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Endurance--building it from scratch!

Endurance.  How do you build it?  And is endurance just about how long your body can last, or does it have a component of mental toughness?  How do some people seem to be able to run for hours and hours easily, while other struggle to just run a mile?

First, let's get the genetic component out of the way.  Clearly, there are people who are just genetically compatible with long endurance related activities, in part due to their muscle fiber make-up.  Some folks have a larger proportion of slow twitch muscle fibers, which makes endurance work easier for them.  And some have more fast twitch fibers, making them better suited to sprint work and explosive sports which require quick starts and stops and not continuous movement.

But, let's say you do want to build whatever endurance you can, with what you've got.  This can be done, with diligence and hard work.  And some mental toughness is required, since the road isn't necessarily and easy one.  Let's say you want to be able to run, and you've never been able to--how do you start?

The first rule is not to add too much to fast.  Ok, let me backtrack just a bit--first make sure you have good supportive shoes that are appropriate for the activity at hand.  If you are unsure, place like InStep can help you with the proper footwear.  Then, you are going to pick a one mile route.  Pick places where you can try a light jog, and places where you can walk;  In my neighborhood, we have a winding road that attaches a court system, so you can walk the main road and run the court, or vice versa.  Or you could pick a number of houses or mailboxes--I'll run to the 3rd mailbox, and walk 4 mailboxes/houses, and then run again.  Then go home and stretch.

The second rule (it's my own rule based on my experience, I don't think it's written anywhere but here)--you need adequate rest in order to move forward and to avoid injury.  So if you get overly ambitious, and don't allow your body to adapt, you are going to be sorry.  I set to much volume and not enough rest, and ended up with a sore foot and sharp pain in one knee that set my training back a week and a half.  So, maybe you do this pattern above, 3-4 times the first week, and then give yourself a new goal.

The next week, you see if you can jog a bit more--set the goal to jog more houses, or walk only 1/2 the court, and run the rest, plus the parts between decide.  The goal here is to get that mile to all running, so you are trying to do just that little bit more.

The third week, you try to jog the whole mile, knowing you may need to stop a couple of times along the way to catch your breath, but pick a pace that keeps you pretty steady, so you don't have to, even if that looks like my old golden retriever--old man running I call it--you look like you're running, but it might be just over a walking pace.  That's ok, you're doing a great job, and your body is doing it's best to keep up and make the changes you are asking for.  You might be a little bit uncomfortable.  

Sometime around week 4, you should be jogging this entire mile route.  Yea!  You rock!  Now, your initial goal of running a mile is complete, and if you want to, you can add a bit more to your route.  Not a lot, mind you--maybe you go for extra time, like 5 more minutes, or maybe you think about adding 1/4 mile this next week.

If you go about this systematically, and you do the work consistently, you will see the results.  Don't compare yourself to anyone else, this is for you.  Work on your dreams one at a time, with a systematic approach, and you will accomplish them.

Have a great week!

Melissa Abramovich
AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist
"Excuses are the nails that build houses of failure"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jump-start Your Metabolism

The very best way to increase your metabolism is to become physically active. There is a wide berth in calories people burn during their daily activities, ranging from sedentary people, who may burn as few as 100 calories a day in activities, to very active people, like competition athletes, who can burn 1,000 extra calories a day. It was said that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was burning over 10,000 calories per day!

Physically active people burn more calories, even when at rest, because they have more muscle tissue. Muscle is "active" tissue, meaning it burns calories; fat is "inactive" tissue, because it burns almost no calories. So, the more muscle you carry on your body, and build through exercise, the more calories you will burn, even at rest.

Becoming more active will certainly begin the process of burning that furnace of yours at a higher temperature, but strength training specifically builds muscle tissue. Performing a variety of weight bearing exercise, and changing up your program regularly will begin to build that tissue, and help to rev up your metabolism. Be sure to work with precision, slow and controlled movement, and pain free range of motion. You will begin to see results in just a few weeks!

To build muscle, you need to tire them out, which will mean different weights and repetitions for different people. You can try starting with a 5 pound dumbbell, and start with a basic 3 sets of 12 reps of your exercise of choice, but fine tuning may be needed to actually find that tiring or fatiguing point.

Once a strength training routine becomes comfortable, you need to introduce different movements and/or add more weight. Weights should not be so light that they don't challenge your body to build muscle. If you can do 20 reps with your weights, then they are too light and you need to switch to heavier ones.

While arguments have been made on both sides for the best time of day to exercise, the differences are slight, and the best time of day is whatever works into YOUR schedule! So, whether you like to work out in the morning or the evening, be sure to include some activity in every day! The time to start moving is now.

Life Changing Bread

The Life Changing Loaf of Bread (with some small adjustments)

-- This was a recipe I found on the internet, and though I'm usually a calorie counter, I went out on a limb and made this, even though it has a lot of nuts and seeds, which are a bit higher in calories. I am so glad I did! It's tasty provided you enjoy the ingredients, although many can be substituted, and very equalizing for the gastro-intestinal system! And, if you are a paleo diet follower or low carb, this fits the bill perfectly, minus the oats, which you could replace with coconut flour if you like.

The website is for the original recipe, but I made a few changes. I wanted it for breakfast, so I added a 1/2 cup of chopped raisins, and I felt that mine was still a bit crumbly, so I added a bit more psyllium and a bit more water.

1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
5 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (4 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½-2 cups / 350ml water
1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!
Caloric counts for the measurements above.
Sunflower seeds--799
flax seeds--387
chia seeds--120
maple syrup--52
coconut oil--351
total per loaf: 3265.50 but, you are going to divide this into about 16 slices, so: 204 per slice of VERY filling, VERY healthy, sugar equalizing, gut stabilizing, gluten free, non-inflammatory "bread".

Melissa Abramovich


AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist

"Excuses are the nails that build houses of failure"

Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid!

This week, I thought we would talk about food additives, and what you should be avoiding as much as possible. It is really tough, though, because some of these are in a ton of different foods. Still, there is good reason to moderate or eliminate them from your diet.

Here’s the list of top 10 additives to watch out for:
#1: High fructose corn syrup
#2: Aspartame
#3: Hydrolyzed protein
#4: Autolyzed yeast
#5: Monosodium glutamate
#6: Potassium bromate
#7: BHA and BHT
#9: Trans fat
#10: Artificial colors

“Harmful food additives can contribute to many serious medical conditions that include diabetes, obesity and heart disease,” notes Harvard M.D., Dr. Eva Selhub. “Eliminating these ‘top 10’ additives from your diet is an excellent start to healthier eating.”
Each of the top ten has been discussed in the past. Let's just take a look at HFCS. The corn growers even launched a publicity campaign supporting high fructose corn syrup, advocating that it's no different from regular sugar.
"Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency. These are used skillfully through massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association's attempt to dispel the "myth" that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of "medical and nutrition experts" that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a "natural" product that is a healthy part of our diet when used in moderation. Except for one problem. When used in moderation, it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay and more." Huffington Post,
There are a few links to check out below. Check out 4/11 Declared National "Read Your Labels Day" by Citizens for Health for more information about why you should be reading your labels!
From more detailed information about why these additives are not great for you or your family, look at 10 ingredients to avoid. It includes what they're used for and why to avoid them.
Another great site to look at is, a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing consumers about food safety issues.